G20 Summit: Who’s in India, and who’s not


Several world leaders will meet on Friday in the Indian capital New Delhi for the two-day 18th G20 summit which will take place on 9 and 10 September.

The G20 consists of 19 countries and the European Union (EU) and represents around 85% of global GDP and two thirds of the world’s population.

This summit takes place shortly after the Brics summit last month in Johannesburg and is still in the shadow of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Although the host country chose the optimistic slogan “One Earth, One Family, One Future” for the summit, Jaco Kleynhans, head of international liaison at the Solidarity Movement, believes that this summit is defined by giant power struggles and change in the world.

“Who will be there and who will not be there says more about the current global power struggle than what will be discussed at the summit itself.”

Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia and Pres. China’s Xi Jinping will miss both summits.

Since he became president of China more than a decade ago, it will be the first time that Xi does not attend the summit.

Here is a breakdown of some of the key issues that will be discussed, who will attend the summit in India and who will rather stay at home.

Joe Biden

The US leader will arrive in India eager to strengthen alliances and offer support to developing countries.

On the US agenda are several issues that include everything from “combating climate change to mitigating the economic and social impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine”, Jake Sullivan, a national security adviser, told AFP.

Biden is accompanied by Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, on her fourth visit to India in ten months. Washington is currently pushing for reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to better assist developing countries.

The White House wants the G20 to remain relevant as the “preeminent forum of economic cooperation worldwide”, says Sullivan.

Lavrov, not Putin

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will head the Russian delegation at the Brics summit, as he did last month. Putin will not attend the G20 summit for the second consecutive year.

In March, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on charges of war crimes for the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.

Kleynhans believes that Putin is currently more isolated than most of his supporters want to admit.

“While world leaders travel to India this week, Putin plans to meet with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, next week in the far east of Russia, in Vladivostok.”

In the shadow of the war, “Putin’s overseas trips are currently largely limited to visits to countries in Central and East Asia that are strongly under the influence of the Russians.”

Li Qiang, not Xi

Beijing confirmed on Monday that Premier Li Qiang will lead China’s delegation.

This year’s summit enjoys added prestige as many countries grapple with high inflation and economic turmoil associated with sluggish recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

China, the world’s second largest economy, is currently struggling with weak consumer demand, rising youth unemployment and a crisis in its crucial real estate sector.

China also has a long-running border dispute with G20 host India, with a deadly Himalayan conflict in 2020 dropping diplomatic relations well below freezing.

India is holding military exercises near the Chinese border this week which will continue during the summit.

Narendra Modi

The world’s most populous country holds the rotating G20 presidency this year. Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, seized the opportunity for his country and himself to make a good impression on the world stage.

Kleynhans also believes that the summit is for India and Modi a “golden opportunity to confirm this country’s growing stature as one of the most important and influential global powers”.

However, Modi has the tough challenge of forging consensus among major powers on key issues.

New Delhi’s battle with Beijing continues after the Chinese State Department released what it considers to be “the correct map of China” last week. On this map, a large part of northeastern India, including the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the disputed Aksai Chin plateau, is included as part of China – land that India also claims, as well as territory near where the two countries fought in 2020 has.

Last week’s unceremonious annual launch by a Chinese state department of what Xi and the Chinese Communist Party labeled as the correct map of China confirmed the extent of tensions between China and India. On this map, a substantial part of northeastern India, including the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the disputed Aksai Chin plateau, is included as part of China.

According to Kleynhans, this card highlighted the extent of ongoing tension between the two giants.

On the other hand, India is also seeking to forge closer ties with Western countries, including the US, Japan and Australia, the fellow Quad members.

Modi is expected to seek to expand the group to 21 with the African Union invited to join – a move Biden supports.

“For now, Modi is excellently positioned to use the summit to his advantage, but in a world rich with increasingly unpredictable role players, one must accept that the G20 summit is only one move in a much larger, more difficult and strategically masterful power game by countries and leaders will be looking for power and influence,” explains Kleynhans.

Rest of the world

A delegation from the only African nation in the G20, South Africa, will be led by pres. Cyril Ramaphosa is led.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, pres. Emmanuel Macron of France and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, will be among the leaders representing the EU.

Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy, all four fellow G7 members, will be represented by their respective prime ministers Rishi Sunak, Justin Trudeau, Fumio Kishida and Giorgia Meloni.

From the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will participate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan will attend the summit in person, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is also expected.

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is coming and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez is expected, but Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is unlikely to attend the summit, according to Indian media.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), will attend the summit as an observer, with the heads of the IMF and the World Bank also present.

Other leaders expected to attend the summit include Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu.